Archive for January, 2020


Jan 26 2020

Georgetown Geography

by at 1:46 pm

I start this week by wishing Director of Communications Sarah Surgenor nothing but the best as she moves on to a new job, back in the mental health space that had been her specialty before she joined Georgetown. It has been a pleasure to work with her. She is currently in Europe to be with her father, who is dealing with a serious health issue. I hope it all turns out well.

I returned from a trip to Florida last week. The last part of the trip was in Tampa, where I participated in a Lombardi fundraising event for Georgetown alumni. It was odd to fundraise in Moffitt’s back yard; not because it is poor form; after all, other cancer centers are not shy about fundraising in DC. However, given the recent turmoil due to the forced resignations of Moffitt leadership in the 1000 Talents scandal, I did receive a lot of questions about that issue.

The evening was quite interesting and productive. We had a great turnout and vibrant question and answer session. But I will remember the evening for a completely different reason, and that is related to Harriet, who accompanied me at the event.

When she was a little girl, Harriet’s younger sister and grandmother were seriously injured in an automobile accident in their hometown of Lima, Ohio. The family temporarily relocated to Miami Beach, which had a great brain injury rehabilitation facility. The family lived in a local residential hotel — their next-door neighbor was the then-famous comedian George Jessel — and they became friendly with another family in the building, the Bergs, who lived in Bogota, Colombia. After Harriet’s sister and grandmother had recovered sufficiently, they moved back to Ohio, but stayed in touch with the Bergs, whose son spent a summer with Harriet’s family in Ohio. The next summer, it was Harriet’s turn to spend time in Bogota, where she had experiences she talks about to this day. Over the years, she lost touch with the Bergs — until last Tuesday evening.

I was talking with a Georgetown alum who had been born in Cuba. His father had heroically smuggled refugees from Cuba after the revolution, hiding them in a secret trunk compartment and delivering them to the U.S. Embassy. He was sent to attend school at Malvern Prep in the Philly suburbs and ended up at Georgetown, and then in Tampa. His daughter is president of the Tampa Georgetown Alumni Club. His wife and Harriet began talking; she was from Bogota. Ever the connector, Harriet asked her if she knew the Berg family. The woman’s eyes widened, and she exclaimed, “Oh my God, Linda is my best friend!” One thing led to another, and on Wednesday afternoon Harriet spent 30 minutes on the phone with Linda and her mother, who had hosted Harriet in her home more than 50 years ago. A friendship has been rekindled.

Only at Georgetown… Remarkable connections with remarkable people.

Have a great week.


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Jan 17 2020

50 Years

by at 10:10 am

Greetings from Florida, where I am attending the annual Breast Cancer Think Tank. I just listened to a fascinating talk on targeting mitochondrial metabolism driven by ERRalpha. My first exposure to serious science was at a lab during my undergraduate years, where we studied mitochondrial respiration in cardiac mitochondria. Ironically, the laboratory pavilion was named in honor of a surgeon who had operated on my grandfather, for whom I am named, who died before I was born.

Here I am, 50 years later, learning new insights into how mitochondrial targets can be exploited for cancer therapy. What a journey! I have been so lucky to bear witness to these advances.

Our meeting ends on Friday evening, when I speak about our work on understanding mechanisms of resistance to antibody-initiated immune attack. Harriet and I then head up to Tampa, where after visiting with friends over the weekend I will be doing fundraising meetings for Lombardi. Accordingly, I will miss Monday evening’s event at the Kennedy Center commemorating Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Tying together these two threads, 50 years and the MLK remembrance, is a very big anniversary.

2020 marks an important milestone for our cancer center as we celebrate Georgetown Lombardi’s 50th anniversary. Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center was established in 1970 at Georgetown University Hospital. The next year President Richard Nixon signed the National Cancer Act, launching the National Cancer Program, and in 1974, Georgetown Lombardi became one of the first in the nation to carry the coveted distinction as a National Cancer Institute designated Comprehensive Cancer Center. Today we remain the only such cancer center in Washington.

Throughout the year, you will notice that our communications will carry our commemorative anniversary logo and we will be highlighting our achievements of the last 50 years at various junctures.

On Friday, an informative insert about Georgetown Lombardi was published in the Washington Business Journal highlighting what we have achieved and also our plans for the future.

Given that this weekend is designated to honor the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., I’m reminded that while recognizing achievement is important, there is much work to be done going forward. This is especially true in closing the health disparities gap that remains strong in the District where we have some of the highest cancer incidence and death rates in the country. Georgetown Lombardi remains deeply committed to having a role in defining, and redefining, strategies to mitigate this seemingly intractable challenge.

Clearly, there are many hurdles still to cross as we trudge on, but we do so standing on a foundation built here at Lombardi over the last 50 years and in partnership with researchers and clinicians around the world.

The last 50 years have been remarkable, but what’s to come will be genuinely breathtaking, due to the work we do and the impact that work will have.

Have a wonderful week.


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Jan 12 2020

Recovery Mode

by at 6:42 pm

Greetings on a Sunday evening from Florida. I am attending a research meeting this week, to be followed by a series of fundraising meetings in the Tampa area for Georgetown. I can’t say I am disappointed to leave the DC area for a week or so in January, though it was pretty warm when Harriet and I boarded the plane this morning.

The meeting comes at an opportune time, since I was really knocked for a loop by my sinusitis and cough. I pretty much rested earlier in the week, but was able to get stuff done at home and then at work. I had an active clinic on Thursday, and then took a day trip up to Hackensack on Friday for some CCSG consortium-based meetings. After being placed on a Medrol Dose Pack earlier in the week I finally began to improve and now only cough when I have to speak a lot. I expect to fully recover over the coming week – finally. The meeting is organized like a Gordon Conference – with plenty of work to do but time set aside every afternoon for a bit of relaxation. It’s just what the doctor ordered!

I will be sorry to miss the Georgetown Kennedy Center Martin Luther King event on Monday, and especially sorry to miss the ceremony honoring Sharon Levy and Karen Howenstein when they receive the President’s Excellence Awards for Staff and AAP Members. We have so many exceptional colleagues. For example, Sharon has long been indispensable to the success of the CRMO and more recently the CCSG. In her role as CCSG administrator and Associate Director for Administration she really makes the Cancer Center tick. Congratulations, Sharon and Karen as well!

Have a great week.


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Jan 06 2020

Happy New Year!

by at 9:00 am

Welcome to 2020. I trust you all had a wonderful holiday break. I did, though I continue to battle with an annoying but certainly not dangerous case of chronic sinusitis. I was scheduled to fly to Tucson on Sunday for meetings at the University of Arizona Cancer Center. But discretion was the better part of valor so I will see my internist on Monday instead.

We have a lot of work to do in 2020, but we have a good head of steam heading into the year. Over the past two weeks we concluded the successful recruitments of three outstanding investigators who will join us over the next few months. You will hear more about them in the coming months.

Now for some cough suppressants!

Have a great week.


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